Thanksgiving 2020 football still on at these NJ high schools
Despite the pandemic and Gov. Phil Murphy's latest warnings about the surge in coronavirus, Thanksgiving high school football still is happening in New Jersey this year.
A handful of games are on for the Thursday holiday itself, while at least three games are set that week.
The Thanksgiving rivalry between Vineland and Millville — the oldest in New Jersey dating back to 1893 — is happening in 2020, though a couple days later than usual.
The game at Vineland was moved to Saturday, Nov. 28, as the home team has been benched due to COVID-19 and will only first return to practice the Wednesday before, as reported by The Daily Journal.
Haddonfield and Haddon Heights also were pushing back the 112th edition of their schools’ Thanksgiving game, possibly to the following weekend, according to Haddon Heights Athletic Director Joe Cramp on Wednesday.
Salem High School has kept its more than 100-year-old traditional game with Woodstown on the schedule, with an eye on the state's lower crowd capacity.
“Unfortunately, due to the Governor's announcement that the 150-person limit now includes the players, coaches, etc., we will have to determine the number for each team and then determine how many spectators we can allow. Which, from the looks of it, won't be many. That being said, we will attempt to stream the game for those who will not be able to attend to view. Although, that is not definite at this time,” Salem High School Vice Principal of Student Activities Darryl Roberts said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5.
By Friday, NJSIAA had confirmed that players, coaches and referees would be excluded from the 150 limit, under clarification from the governor's office.
In the only century-plus rivalry that crosses the Delaware River, Phillipsburg High School is set to host Pennsylvannia's Easton Area High School. Phillipsburg officials said after the school had a Friday game cancelled, they decided to see if Easton could play earlier.
So, the Phillipsburg—Easton game has been bumped up to Saturday, Nov. 21, with a very limited number of fans.
Another century tradition between Pleasantville and Ocean City remains on the schedule, with the Thanksgiving Day game at Pleasantville High School, according to both schools' online calendars.
Atlantic City High School and Holy Spirit High School in Absecon have been prepping for their annual face-off Thanksgiving morning, while officials from both schools said Tuesday that they also were waiting on further clarification from the NJSIAA and the Governor's Office about the 150-person outdoor crowd limit.
Long Branch High School will host Red Bank Regional High School on Thanksgiving. Long Branch Athletics Director Jason Corley said Monday, “What will be extremely critical is the management of the game tickets, for the families of the players, just allotting the amount consistent to the executive order set forth by [Murphy.] This will ensure that we have done what is necessary to keep everyone here at Long Branch safe on Thanksgiving Day.”
Meanwhile, Red Bank Regional was in full-remote instruction mode on Monday as three positive COVID-19 cases involving two students and a staffer were reported to the school. RBR's athletic director said they too were awaiting further clarification on the state's lower crowd limit.
Paterson’s cross-city rivalry game has been slated for the evening before Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, Nov. 25, as Paterson Eastside will host Paterson Kennedy (JFK).
"We moved our Thanksgiving Game three years ago to increase student and community involvement. As a result, we seen a significant increase in overall attendance," Paterson Assistant Superintendent David Cozart said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5.
He continued "This year’s game will be played adhering to the NJSIAA guidelines. We are providing all fans an opportunity to watch the game for free via a live streaming service."
Also on the schedule, Roselle Park High School is set to host Roselle's Abraham Clark High School; Barringer High School in Newark is set to host East Orange High School; and Pitman High School is set to host Clayton High School on Thanksgiving morning.
At least three rivalries have been put on hold for 2020 due to circumstances caused by the pandemic.
Burlington City High School has not had fall sports, which means its 110-year-old rivalry with Palmyra High School will have to wait a year. Burlington City High School also is on all-remote instruction until Nov. 30.
A more than 100-year rivalry between Westfield and Plainfield also is on hold, as Westfield High School switched to all-remote instruction and suspended activities, including sports, on Nov. 9. In an open letter, Westfield schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan called the decision an “extremely difficult one.”
Middletown’s in-town matchup between Middletown High School North and Middletown High School South, which has been happening for 45-years, also has been derailed by well over a dozen active cases within both schools within the past two weeks.
Neptune and Asbury Park opted to move up their annual game, and played on Nov. 7, according to Neptune Township Athletic Director Rick Arnao.
At least two long-running Thanksgiving rivalries in the Garden State ended on their own terms last year.
Before the pandemic was even an issue, Toms River South High School and Lakewood wrapped their holiday game with a centennial matchup, while 2019 also was the final Thanksgiving game between Clifton and Passaic high schools.